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Yoon Kyong Kim giving an inspiring speech of Martin Luther King, Jr.

I often tell my students, "You complain that Americans talk too fast.  They complain that you talk too fast."  I also find that many students, because of shyness and insecurity, talk too softly, and don't look directly at their listeners.  Some even have a habit of putting a hand up around their mouths. 
I have found that a good way of working on these problems is by public speaking.  I have collected some excerpts of good rousing speeches by Winston Churchill, Martin Luther King, Franklin Roosevelt, and others, and I have the students practice them at home and then read them to the class.  I put them behind a lectern as far from the class as possible. 
This setup encourages them to speak with more volume, to slow down, to separate words, to look at the audience, and to add some emotion to their voices.  I can remember being almost in tears when Bong Lee, speaking as MLK, said, "Free at last! Free at last! Thank God Almighty, we're free at last!"
They understand that speech from the podium is not the same as speech between two people, but the exercise is like that of the batter coming to the plate swinging two or three bats, so that one bat feels light as a feather.  This exercise does help students overcome some of the common barriers to communication. 

Click on the links below to download copies of some speeches I have found to be good for students to read.  For some of the important speeches I have included the full text.  This is for the teacher's use.  The excerpts are plenty long, and even these I usually divide into smaller parts, giving half or a third to two or three students.  About two minutes per student is usually enough.

Martin Luther King, Jr.

letter from a Birmingham jail

Birmingham jail excerpt 5

Birmingham jail excerpt 1

I have a dream

Birmingham jail excerpt 2

I have a dream excerpt

Birmingham jail excerpt 3

I've been to the mountaintop

Birmingham jail excerpt 4

mountaintop excerpt


Franklin D. Roosevelt

Roosevelt four freedoms

four freedoms excerpt

4th inaugural speech

4th inaugural excerpt

Pearl Harbor

Winston Churchill

Churchill 1

Churchill 2


Booker T. Washington

Washington 1896

Washington excerpt

Dwight D. Eisenhower

Eisenhower text

Eisenhower excerpt

Abraham Lincoln

Gettysburg address

Wendell Willkie

loyal opposition

Mario Cuomo

Democratic convention 1984

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